The Maine Department of Transportation has reduced the weight limit on Hay Brook Bridge, which crosses Hay Brook at the Sanford/Alfred Line on Bernier Rd., to ten tons following a recent inspection. The bridge has been deteriorating for several years, according to Sanford city officials.
When a bridge connects two municipalities, state law requires each side to pay 50% of repair or replacement costs, but the town of Alfred has reportedly declined to pay its share of the burden on multiple occasions, by voting down warrant articles at town meeting.
At the Municipal Operations and Property Subcommittee meeting on Tuesday, December 14, 2021, Public Works Director Matt Hill explained that the state’s downgrading of the bridge means that the City of Sanford’s plow trucks and our trash/recycling pickup contractor will not be able to service the last two residences before the bridge, as those vehicles weigh more than ten tons, and there is no safe place for them to turn around before the bridge.
Fire engines also weigh more than ten tons and will no longer be able to legally cross the bridge, which could result in longer emergency response times.
As a short-term solution, the nearby campground will allow the homeowners to bring their trash and recycling there for pickup, but only until spring when it reopens for the season.
Mr. Hill recommends using one of the PWD’s pickup trucks to plow that part of the road for this winter, and said this would result in it becoming a lower priority for the Department. (The City of Sanford has also been plowing 800’ on the Alfred side of the bridge, up to the intersection of Hay Brook Rd., but that will now become Alfred’s responsibility.)
As the bridge will continue to deteriorate over time, Mr. Hill told the Subcommittee it will eventually be closed completely if the situation is not addressed. “The vertical abutments are now crumbling,” he said. He added that Fire Chief Steve Benotti told him emergency vehicles use that route frequently.
In 2020, the City of Sanford got an estimate of $196,600 to replace the bridge, and proposed a cooperative agreement with Alfred under which each community would pay half of the cost, or $98,300. No response from Alfred town administration was received.
After some discussion, the Subcommittee members – Mayor Mastraccio, Deputy Mayor Herlihy and Councilor Martell – agreed that Public Works should get a revised estimate for the project, get the work done (which would take approximately 18 months), and pursue legal action against the town of Alfred if they do not pay their 50% of the cost. Alfred will also be billed for work to repair a guardrail which was done a few years ago, for which Mr. Hill said “they flatly refused” to pay their share.
As an interim solution, the City is pursuing an easement to allow a T-turnaround to be constructed in the spring, which would enable normal plowing and trash pickup to resume until the bridge is replaced.
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